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News, City Council, Santa Monica, Santa Monica Airport

City-Backed Santa Monica Airport Initiative Remains In Holding Pattern

Posted Jul. 11, 2014, 8:54 am

Parimal M. Rohit / Staff Writer

An attempt to place a City-backed initiative on the November ballot to maintain the City Council’s power to determine the future of the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) is still held at the gate and not yet ready for takeoff, as council members were in a holding pattern on Tuesday night in trying to figure out how best compete with another voter measure backed by a national pilot’s group.

As the County Registrar is expected to complete verifying the signatures of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assoc. (AOPA) ballot initiative by or near July 23, City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie and the Santa Monica City Council are trying to figure out how to best phrase a competing measure to outdo the pilot’s group in November.

Council members ultimately did not come to terms July 8 on how the City-backed ballot measure should be phrased. The difficulty, it appeared, was how to create a measure that would give voters a sense of inclusion in the decision-making process of SMO’s future while allowing the City Council to maintain some leverage in determining the ultimate use of the publicly owned land.

After a little more than one hour of a staff report, public testimony, and council deliberation, the City-backed SMO ballot measure idea will come back to the dais again on July 22 – coincidentally the evening before the County Registrar expects to have a determination of whether the AOPA initiative will be allowed to be voted upon on November.

Of course, there is a chance the County Registrar determines there are not enough signatures to validate the AOPA’s proposed ballot measure, meaning City Hall might be able to avoid drafting a competing initiative altogether. Accordingly, it is possible Moutrie and the council will have a meeting the evening of July 23 to determine whether or not the City needs to finalize its ballot initiative.

The ballot initiative backed by the AOPA claims the City Charter should be amended in order to incorporate voters into the decision-making process of how SMO should be used.

A statement issued by the Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions (SMOHDD) right after the City Council discussion on July 8 stated the initiative both it and the AOPA is backing aims to have voters be “consulted before any decisions to close and redevelop the 227-acre Santa Monica Airport can be taken.”

It is the hope of SMOHDD that voter approval would be required before the council members makes a determination on the future use of SMO for anything other than aviation uses.

Effectively, the SMOHDD/AOPA initiative aims to maintain the status quo at SMO unless voters decide otherwise. Even more, the proposed ballot initiative appears to challenge a recent decision by the City Council a few weeks ago to move forward with plans to shut down SMO.

Moutrie had stated at the last June 24 and July 8 meetings that the AOPA-backed initiative would challenge the council’s powers in determining the future use of City-owned property.

The city attorney made a few suggestions of what interim uses SMO could be subject to until a specific plan for the airport is adopted. For example, the council could prohibit new construction of buildings at SMO or allow for park and recreational uses.

“Only extremely limited development of the airport land … would be allowed in advance of the preparation of a specific plan for the airport land,” Moutrie said. “We’re recommending that because that’s what the LUCE contemplates for the airport.”

Council members were on board with the idea of developing a competing ballot initiative, but no consensus was reached in how to draft one that would be more appealing to voters than the one submitted to County officials by SMOHDD and backed by AOPA.

After all, it is not difficult to achieve a majority vote when voters are asked in an initiative if they would like to have the power to decide something or be included in the decision-making process. Such a question is exactly what is posed by the SMOHDD/AOPA measure.

Accordingly, the council understands it has its work cut out to come up with that 10-second elevator pitch to convince voters the City-backed measure is the one they should support instead of the SMOHDD/AOPA initiative.

Council member Ted Winterer summed up the challenge, saying the AOPA-backed initiative on its face tells voters they are empowering themselves by voting in its favor.

Should the County Registrar validate the AOPA-back initiative, the City Hall hopes to have its own measure ready to go, one that also empowers voters but not at the expense of the council’s ability to function and operate.

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Comments

Jul. 11, 2014, 2:25:53 pm

Corin said...

It is outrageous that a small proportion of the residents who are in the flight path of the airport who knew there was an airport when they bought their homes are forcing the rest of the residents to pay for the legal fees and inclreased taxes that will be needed to convert the airport to some other use or suffer the impacts from increase development. The airport does not have an impact on the the vast majority of the city's residents yet they are paying the costs for all these legal battles. The airport is probably the most benign use of that land for most residents. The vast majority of us are subsidizing the small number of residents who are complaining and will see their property values go up dramatically, but the rest of us will see ours go down due to the increased traffic from development or higher taxes to support a park for ever. Every election the city staff asks for more taxes and this will just be another ask for city staff and the ever increasing beuracacry. The anti airport residents like Zina Josephs and Frank Gruber have a real conflict of interest in that their property values will go up and they want the rest of us to pay the cost so their homes become more valuable.

Jul. 12, 2014, 8:33:06 am

Alan Levenson said...

The airport no longer serves the residents of Santa Monica. It serves a small group of pilots and jet owners who have no problem smearing the residents who are badly affected by noise pollution and lack of runway safety. If the city were to close the airport all property values would go up. True. Tax revenue from increased property value would go up. True. These facts are obvious benefits from improvements to health and safety in the area.

Jul. 12, 2014, 10:27:43 am

Chuck said...

"Tax revenue from increased property value would go up." so if the assessor says the property i live in is more valuable because of the airport closing my taxes will go up? I am not getting a pay raise to pay the increased taxes. I think those in the flight path - say between ocean park bl and dewey and between 11th and 23rd should be assesesed a special tax to pay for this. Lets collect signatures for this and put it on a ballot initiative.

Jul. 12, 2014, 9:06:41 pm

Zina Josephs said...

Corin seems to have it backwards. The City of Santa Monica's General Fund has been subsidizing airport operations for years, for the benefit of a few hundred pilots, most of whom don't seem to live in Santa Monica. (Corin's tax dollars at work..)

Jul. 12, 2014, 11:09:04 pm

Peter Donald said...

This property value issue is a total red herring. Does wanting a healthier, safer neighborhood make for a conflict of interest when taking action to accomplish that end? The fact is doing something more useful with the airport land will add to everyone's quality of life, not just those who live near the runway and all citizens will benefit, property values and all. It's true, as another writer said here, the airport produces very little traffic for its footprint size but at what cost? Noise and air pollution and environment damage and squandering of a major asset. This is as much an issue of land use as it is the roll of aviation in our lives.

Jul. 13, 2014, 10:45:37 am

O said...

Sooo...if the city council doesn't like something that could jeopardize their money train then they find a way to change the rules. All we're asking for is a fair vote from the people not special interests. You know the city of Bell put a few of their elected officials in JAIL for corruption. I'll bet there would be enough support to see that investigation through.

Jul. 13, 2014, 10:59:58 am

Truth said...

Time for a moment of truth. The anti airport crowd is trying to polish a turd in a giant crap filled toilet known as L.A. Our cells are already mutating and cancer is a very real possibility. It's not just the airport though. It's breathing any of the air here. It's drinking the water. It's the crappy food you eat. You're already sick. We all are. So go ahead and win your battle. Turn the airport in a shopping mall with a little park in the middle with a plaque dedicated to Craap (the most fitting of names ever conceived). We're all still getting sick from all the other pollutants. Your wasting your last breath on your real estate values.

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